Obama Speaks at Tribal Nations Conference Today

December 16, 2010 –

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WASHINGTON, D.C.:  History was made today for American Indians when President Barack Obama announced that the United States will throw its support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples during a White House Tribal Nations Conference held at the Department of Interior(DOI).  Prior to the announcement, the United States had not voted in favor of the Declaration, so today’s announcement was a moral victory for American Indian tribes who had been calling on Obama to address the consequences of wrong doings that will address poverty, discrimination, health care gaps and more.

In the audience listening to Obama’s speech were tribal leaders from the four tribes in Kansas including Steve Ortiz, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation (PBPN) chair, Twen Barton, Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri chair, Tim Rhodd, Iowa Tribe in Kansas chair, and Laura Razo, Kickapoo in Kansas vice chair. Following Obama’s speech the audience of several hundred was divided into break out sessions on Nation-to-Nation Relationships, Education/Healthcare/Community Services, Economic Development/Housing/Infrastructure and Tribal Land/Cultural Protection/Energy and Climate Change Natural Resource issues.  The groups then convened back to the auditorium to hear summaries of what was said from DOI officials.

Today’s conference was the last in a series of meetings held throughout the week in Washington, D.C. Chairman Ortiz attended meetings as a representative of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Tribal Advisory Committee on Monday and Tuesday and attended  a meeting yesterday as an area representative on the  DOI Tribal Consultation Team.  Jancita Warrington of the PBPN Tribal Council also represented the PBPN at several meetings throughout the week.

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From left to right:  Larry Echo Hawk, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Yvette Roubideaux, Indian Health Service Director, Louis Maynohonah, Apache Tribe of Oklahoma Chair, Steve Ortiz, PBPN Chair, Gus Frank, Forrest County Potawatomi Chair, Michael Burgess, Comanche Nation Chair, Burton Warrington, Policy Advisor for Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.  Warrington is also a PBPN member.

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Chairman Ortiz with Del Laverdure, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.

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From left to right:  Nedra Darling (PBPN) Department of Interior Public Affairs Director, Steve Ortiz, PBPN Chair, Jefferson Keel, National Congress of American Indian President, and Tim Rhodd, Iowa Chair.

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Navajo Code Talkers were the color guard for today’s event.

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Two inches of snow fell on Washington, D.C. The photograph is of the courtyard at the Department of Interior.